Freshman Harris comes through in a pinch

By: Matt Jones
Published: Friday, March 8, 2019
Arkansas freshman Trey Harris runs down the line after recording the go-ahead hit during a game against Louisiana Tech on Friday, March 8, 2019, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas freshman Trey Harris runs down the line after recording the go-ahead hit during a game against Louisiana Tech on Friday, March 8, 2019, in Fayetteville.

— Struggling to find production from his designated hitter, Arkansas coach Dave Van Horn played the matchups Friday night at Baum-Walker Stadium.

Van Horn started left-handed batter Matt Goodheart against Louisiana Tech right hander Matt Miller, but Goodheart finished 0-for-3 to drop his batting average to a team-worst .179.

When it was time for the DH to hit again in the seventh inning, Van Horn turned to right-handed Trey Harris. The freshman has been the most consistent producer at the team's most inconsistent position. Against a Louisiana Tech bullpen full of lefties, Harris - with his .250 average and .500 on-base percentage against left handers - made sense.

The Little Rock native made his coach look good when he hit a two-run double past Tech third baseman Tanner Huddleston with two outs in the seventh, giving Arkansas the go-ahead runs in a 4-2 victory.

"When you put the ball in play, sometimes good things happen," Van Horn said, "and that’s what happened there."

Harris was brought in to face left hander Beau Billings, but Louisiana Tech coach Lane Burroughs made a pitching change after Harris approached the plate. Burroughs turned to freshman left hander Kyle Griffen.

"I was kind of waiting for the situation to bring him in," Van Horn said. "I knew they had a bullpen full of lefties."

Harris took five pitches before he swung the bat. He took a first-pitch strike, then two balls, a fastball strike on the inside corner and a pitch low to run the count full. On 3-2, Griffen threw a fastball over the plate.

"Coach told me to look for a fastball because that guy was very fastball heavy, so that’s what I was looking for and luckily I batted in two and got a hit," Harris said.

"It’s kind of overwhelming. It's a moment that I’ve always dreamed of, and I finally end up getting that moment."

Harris had only 14 plate appearances prior to his pinch-hit opportunity Friday - all in the past 10 days. Harris missed the first two weeks of the season after suffering multiple injuries in the preseason, most recently to his knee while sliding into second base during a preseason practice. He also suffered injuries to his neck and back when he ran into a wall on the first day of the preseason.

"Obviously, hitting the wall in my first practice, that was tough," Harris said. "Everyone was getting live at bats and seeing pitching, I sat on the side.

"I've always had a little bit of confidence. The coaches said to trust my ability and that made it easier to stay confident."

In the past week, Van Horn has lauded Harris' ability to get on base and have quality at-bats, including swings that resulted in an out. With Goodheart and Jordan McFarland struggling in their starts at DH, Harris had started three of the past five games entering Friday, and is likely to start the next two against Louisiana Tech left handers Logan Robbins and Logan Bailey.

Harris' winning hit didn't come without some controversy. Third-base umpire Joseph Brown pointed to signal the ball was fair inside the third base bag, but he pointed the wrong direction, toward foul ground.

Base runners Dominic Fletcher and Casey Opitz never quit running despite the mix up, and Louisiana Tech's left fielder never stopped pursuing the ball as it rolled toward the wall. Harris quickly rounded first and stood up as he went into second base.

"Obviously when a ball is foul umpires put their hands up in the air this way," Van Horn said with his hands raised. "When it’s fair they point which way it’s fair. And that’s a non-reviewable play because it was on the ground before it reached a base."

Burroughs argued the umpires' motion twice. He was ejected when he came back onto the field after umpires conferenced.

Van Horn sought out Burroughs, his former assistant coach, after the game.

"I waited and just wanted to tell him ‘good ballgame’ and tell him how well I thought his team pitched and played, and my thoughts on the play," Van Horn said. "He kind of gave me his and we both saw it the same way. We saw the ball fair."

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